Archive for Sunday, January 5, 1992


January 5, 1992


Don Clancy, coordinator of cooperative occupational training at Lawrence High School, didn't go straight into teaching after earning his education degree in 1979.

"There was just no money in it," Clancy said.

Gregg Winchester, a fourth-grade teacher at East Heights School, said he originally majored in hotel and restaurant management at Oklahoma State University for the same reason.

"In Oklahoma, the teachers were paid so little you couldn't survive," he said.

Although a strong love for teaching moved Clancy and Winchester to look beyond the figures in their paychecks, the number of men in the nation's teaching force has declined, statistics show.

Lawrence school officials say they see the same trend here and would like to see it reversed.

"We desperately need male teachers as role models for kids, especially at the elementary level. But a lot of people are selecting other fields," said Bill Wilson, the district's director of human resources.

THE NATIONAL Education Assn. recently reported that of the approximately 2,409,000 teachers in 1990-91, about 664,000 teachers, or 27.6 percent, were males. That's down from 32.4 percent in 1980-81. The number appeared to peak in 1971-72 at 33.8 percent.

The percentage of male teachers in the Lawrence school district falls below the national figure. Of the district's 395 regular classroom teachers, 87 teachers, or 22 percent, are men. Regular classroom teachers do not include art, music or physical education teachers, who may see students for only a few hours a week. Special education teachers also are outside the realm of regular classroom teachers.

Even looking at all of the district's certified personnel, which includes all categories of teachers, only 22.6 percent are men.

A high proportion of local male teachers are at the secondary level. At LHS, 48 percent of the regular classroom teachers are males. Among the district's three junior high schools, the number of male teachers averages 37.2 percent.

MEANWHILE, of the district's 17 grade schools, there are only three where at least 20 percent of the teachers are male. And six elementary schools Grant, India, Riverside, Schwegler, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn employ no male classroom teachers.

Clancy said stereotypes could be a partial reason for the low number of male teachers at the grade-school level.

Clancy said that while working on his first degree in elementary education at Kansas State University, one woman professor told him, "I don't think you've got the compassion to be an elementary teacher." The professor went on to say that only women should be elementary teachers because "they've got that motherly instinct."

Clancy said he was offended by those remarks.

Doran Chaput, a third-grade teacher at Hillcrest School, had a similar experience when he started as a grade school teacher in Peabody, about 16 years ago. Chaput was Peabody's only male grade school teacher at the time.

"BOY, WAS I a news item in that little town," Chaput said. "By the time I went to rent an apartment and open a bank account, everybody knew who I was."

Chaput said stereotypes of teachers persist today, including the idea that women are better suited to teach at the elementary level. Chaput should know: Not only does he teach grade school, but his wife, Cheryl Chaput, is a math teacher at LHS.

"When you tell people that, they kind of look at you twice sometimes," he said.

The relatively low salaries for teachers are another reason some men don't go into the profession.

Clancy said that after getting his elementary education degree, he spent three years as a production control supervisor for Beech Aircraft in Wichita; he was after the bigger bucks the job paid.

However, Clancy said he constantly felt that "I wanted to get back in the school system because I have so much to offer. You know that you want to be a teacher, and you're in the wrong place."

CLANCY, 35, went back to school and earned a degree in industrial technology so he could teach secondary school but not, he said, because he wasn't compassionate enough for grade-schoolers.

"I just needed students with a little more of a knowledge base," Clancy said.

Vance Grant, a statistics specialist with the U.S. Department of Education, said teaching salaries should be looking more attractive.

"Teacher salaries have risen rather well in the '80s. They've more than kept up with inflation," he noted.

According to Lawrence school officials, teacher salaries in the district rose an average of 8.15 percent a year between 1970 and 1991. The Consumer Price Index, a broad-based measure of retail inflation, rose an average 6.2 percent a year in that same period.

"As employment opportunities become a little tighter in the private sector, you'll see a lot of people return to education," Wilson said.

HE SAID MALE role models are needed more than ever now that "a lot of our kids brought up in single family homes."

Although he doesn't consciously view himself as a male role model, Chaput said some parents have told him they're glad to have their children taught by a male teacher.

Winchester, who is in his first year at East Heights and his second year of teaching, said he has received similar comments. He said some parents want their children to have at least one male grade school teacher because "they don't want kids to go into seventh-grade and be shocked."

Winchester, 27, said fourth-graders do notice a difference in the style of male teachers.

"For the first two or three weeks, they're not really sure what to do," he said.

But eventually, the students have a more dynamic interaction with the teacher, and Winchester is reminded why he chose the area of elementary education.

"The little ones . . . It's magic. The looks on their faces. They react. They're more open than older students," Winchester said.

SOME MALE teachers probably are attracted to secondary teaching because of extracurricular activities, Wilson said. Brian Cooper, who teaches health and life sciences at West Junior High School, agrees.

"What got me into teaching in the first place was the coaching aspect," said Cooper, who has coached football, track, basketball and wrestling in his 17 years at West.

"I think it gives you a chance to see kids from a very different perspective," Cooper said. "You get a lot more out of them than you might in the classroom because it's something they've chosen to do."

The coach-athlete relationship "also helps the relationship in the classroom," Cooper said. "They've seen you in a different setting. They see that you are trying to help them along."

Cooper, 40, said there are other reasons he likes teaching at the junior high level.

"It's an interesting age group," Cooper said. "You've got kids who are really growing and some who haven't started yet, some who are socially mature and some who are quite the other way."

WILSON SAID he hopes more men will be attracted by those and other aspects of teaching.

Meanwhile, he said, "We're always on the lookout for good male teachers."

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